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Chuck Eddy 1986 interview, continued

By Phil Dellio

...In the Voice, I want to piss people off. Especially in the Voice. Since I started writing for that paper, I've always assumed that there's something complacent about those readers. So yeah, I want to shock them. Besides, it's interesting to talk about Venom in terms that somebody who reads the Voice might appreciate. I mean, hell, Christgau ended up giving Slayer a B-plus in his Consumer Guide; he put Motorhead in his top 10! I have to think I played a part in that--I know I did. I can't believe he ever really played that Slayer record--I can't imagine Bob doing that--but I think it's neat breaking down some of the barriers he has toward this kind of stuff.

Cliques of a Different Colour

Let me put it this way: I would be allowed to give Hüsker Dü a negative review in the Voice, but you can't give the Swans a bad review in Forced Exposure. Byron Coley called me two weeks after "Slime Is Money" ran, and he told me flat out that a lot of those people he writes about are his friends. He told me that he will not write something negative about Chris D. or the Misfits. So the way Forced Exposure is cliquish has to do with the music they cover; Spin, the Voice--or before that, New York Rocker--are maybe cliquish internally, but they don't only cover one kind of music.

I have a lot of problems with Spin. I've told this to John Leland, but since I write for them it's not something I really want to...I was gonna say I kind of hate Spin. There's like a trendy schtick there. The Cro-Mags, for instance, don't deserve any space anywhere--they're a generic hardcore band. That Spin would devote that space to somebody like the Cro-Mags only indicates to me that whoever's writing that article, whoever's serving as the editor for that article, doesn't know about the kind of music they're covering.

Favourites

The albums I play more than any other albums in my collection are Paranoid, Funhouse, and ZoSo. Paranoid's amazing--it's a jazz album. Big influence on early Pere Ubu and electric Miles Davis. Anybody who takes time with Paranoid or Master of Reality, I'm convinced they'll come away thinking those are amazing records. Thing is, they're not that far from what the Stooges were doing. But what divided the critics then was audiences: a different audience listened to the Stooges and MC5 than listened to Sabbath, and it was assumed that the audience who listened to Sabbath were dumb. And that's reprehensible.

I listen to Zeppelin records right now, and there's never been a more avant-garde rock group. Never. Those guys..."When the Levee Breaks" is just so hard. "Communication Breakdown" is like hardcore ought to sound. It confuses me: I can't figure out why punk revolted against that stuff. The Pistols are nothing compared to Zeppelin. The difference is, people are dancing to Zeppelin right now. They were making dance music all along: "When the Levee Breaks," "Wanton Song," and "The Crunge" are great dance songs. I can't imagine anybody's ever gonna match that music. ZoSo's my desert island record if Greil ever asks me to write a chapter for Stranded.

If I was asked to name the most important rock artists of the '80s, I'd be really hard pressed. I think Motorhead have been really consistent, and I think AC/DC have too. But they're nothing like geniuses. [laughs] They've only made a couple of albums I really liked, but they've made a lot of good ones. Maybe the Fall, who are completely ignored by most critics. I don't know what I'm missing, but I think the Fall make brilliant records.

Critics

I've never met Greil Marcus, and I really want to. He's one of the people in the world I would really like to meet. Sometimes, I think he's way out in left field somewhere; I don't even understand what he's writing about. I mean, I've got to be honest--I'll read his "Real Life Top 10" and...you can't say it's over-intellectualizing, because that's not it. I have a radio in my car, and being in Detroit without mass transit, I drive around a lot too. So I really sympathize with what he does there. He was the only person besides me who realized that "Calling America" by ELO was one of the most brilliant records of last year. I thought it was really neat that it ended up on both our top 10s.

I've got nothing against Greil. Yeah, I probably do. I think both him and Christgau miss a lot. With Marcus it's probably not that important, because he never set out to hear everything there is. With Christgau it is important, although I know he realizes that he misses a lot.

The thing that bugs me about rock criticism more than anything else, and this applies to both Marcus and Christgau, and Marsh even more, is what I would call a hero-worship syndrome. Both Marcus's and Christgau's aesthetics are at least partially based on the idea that anybody can make great music. But I don't think they carry that out in practice. To me, it's not that likely that Elvis Costello will make four great albums; most people will make one great album or one great single. Making one great album doesn't really increase the chances of making another great album. I guess I'm not as convinced by the concept of genius as most critics are.

Hüsker Dü are a perfect example. If they emerged now, playing the kind of music they do, they'd be deservedly ignored. They sound like Big Country! There's no punch to that music. The other thing that makes me real different from Marcus and Christgau--probably makes me different from most critics--is that I want music to have immediate impact. That's one of the reasons I really like heavy metal. There are very few albums that grow on me over time. The Mekons's Edge of the World is probably the only album I've loved in the last couple of years that didn't hit me right off and kill me, and just continue to kill me.

Another thing is--I say these guys are great, and then I come up with all these things I hate about them--these guys judge music on lyrics. Marcus does it less than most critics, Christgau does it less that most critics, both do it way more than they ought to. Music is not lyrics. To me, lyrics are almost irrelevant. The only time lyrics will affect me one way or the other is if they outwardly annoy me, like with the Wiseblood record. I don't look for meaning; I don't think most people who listen to music do.

Words matter to me when they're funny, like on the new Cult album. I think it's by far one of the best records this year--it's just so stupid! Or like the Shonen Knife record, this power-pop group from Japan. They're three Japanese girls who are playing '79 style power-pop, influenced by the Buzzcocks or early XTC, with all the songs about animals, ice cream, and stuff like that. To me, those are good lyrics.

Steve Perry vs. Bob Mould

Bryan Adams, Boston, and Lou Gramm--or Steve Perry, who I think is a great singer--I acknowledge that it's crap. I like it as crap--it's great crap. They set their sights low, so they don't have to be that good. Whereas Hüsker Dü, to do what they set out to do, they have to be real good. And they're not.

Doug Simmons (Voice Music Editor) thought my Third Stage review was one of the better things I'd written. He pictured a whole city of people with their morning coffee and that review in front of them just spitting their coffee all over the table. And that's kind of what my intention was. I'm not gonna write about Boston and tear that album apart. I mean, why?--billions of people could do that. There's no use writing about Boston or REO unless I'm going to sit down and figure out what it is people like about Boston and REO. On the other hand, a big part of that Boston review was tongue-in-cheek. It was definitely aimed to piss people off. Rock criticism should.

Bono vs. Bonzo

I loathe U2. I hate their guts. But--just like Pee Wee said in his movie, there's always a big but--if "Bullet the Blue Sky" comes out as a single, that'll be my single of the year. Oh, man--the drums are pure Bonham! I heard it on the radio last week, and they played it back-to-back with "Love Removal Machine," and then went into "Kashmir." I was in heaven--I was in heaven.

Teenagers vs. the World

To me, rock'n'roll is a teenage music. One of the things that excited me so much about Metallica is that this was no frills, teenage music--and there's kids out there buying it. The thing that bugs me more than anything else is that there's no radio for kids anymore. There's nothing on the radio. Although the Beastie Boys, man...I hate their guts, I hate their guts--as people or whatever. But they proved something that Run-D.M.C. and Metallica started to prove last year: there's a teenage audience out there that's thirsting for their own music. And they're not being given it. Every generation of teenagers since rock'n'roll started had their own music. Until this one.

Chuck Eddy vs. Chuck Eddy

I don't know if my tastes will change; that's one of my big questions. One of the things I've taken Marsh to task for is that in old Creem, in the early '70s, he wrote all these amazing high-energy reviews of Raw Power, Sir Lord Baltimore, and Dust. Then he started taking bands like Pere Ubu--who to me are a natural extension of that kind of music--to task as being too arty, or too noisy: "Stop listening to noisy music." I guess a lot of that has to do with getting older.

But as I get older, I find my tastes lean more and more towards noisier music. I hate to refer to it in those terms, because it's almost as if someone like Albini likes noise just for the sake of noise. I don't--I want music to express emotion. I guess that's a Lester Bangs thing, but that's what I want. And right now, most of the music I see expressing emotion is loud, noisy music. So what will probably be the deciding factor is not whether my tastes change, but whether the music changes.

I'm convinced that I'm listening to the best music there is right now. I've got no doubt in my mind.